How does Shakespeare invite us to compare and contrast Hamlet with Laertes and Fortinbras?

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When Hamlet speaks with the captain about young Fortinbras, on his way to fight for some scrawny piece of land that has no real merit, he cannot help compare himself to the young Norwegian. Fortinbras is busy working to restore his own and his father's honor, while Hamlet remains relatively inactive and has not yet achieved any real measure of revenge on his uncle. He says,

Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honor’s at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father killed, a mother stained,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And...

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revolution | Student

Similarities:

  1. They are all seeking revenge for the murder of their fathers, military leaders, slain just for fame and glory
  2. They were denied of the throne and was taken over by someone by force
  3. They were mostly affected by Claudius, the poison ivy in the story

Differences:

  1. Hamlet is a reflective and thoughtful but sometimes indecisive and hesitant but on some occasions, prone to rash and impulsive acts.
  2. Laertes is a complete foil for Hamlet. He is passionate and quick to action and do something good
  3. Fortinbas is also another foil for Hamlet. He act on his own feelings and thoughts without external factors affecting his own decisions.
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cokes | Student

shakespeare uses the theme of revenge to compare and contrast the three characters. All of them are revenge heros who are seeking revenge for their family and the family reputation. Hamlet wants revenge on his uncle claudius for killing his father. Laertes wants revenge on Hamlet for killing his Father polonious and causing the madness of his sister ophielia. Finally Fortinbras is going to war with poland in order to regain land lost by his deceased father. As we can see all of these characters want to take revenge for their fathers.

Also their attitudes are different and vary greatly. Hamlet is philosopical, about the concepts of life, death and human endevour. This makes him very hesitant. He is also very wordly and expresses his changing emotions verbally through the use of soliloquies, were he continously critisises himself and often works himself into a feigned anger.

On the other hand Fortinbras and Laertes are both strong minded, impulsive and eager to take action. Unlike Hamlet they do not think things through, thus making them typical tragic heros.

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